586 F.3d 735 (9th Cir. 2009), 05-56814, National Parks & Conservation Ass'n v. Bureau of Land Management

Docket Nº:05-56814, 05-56815, 05-56843, 05-56832, 05-56908.
Citation:586 F.3d 735
Opinion Judge:PREGERSON, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:NATIONAL PARKS & CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT; United States Department of Interior, Defendants, and Kaiser Eagle Mountain, Inc.; Mine Reclamation Corporation, Defendants-Appellants. Donna Charpied; Laurence Charpied; Desert Protection Society; Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, Plai
Attorney:Leonard J. Feldman, Heller Ehrman LLP, Seattle, WA, for defendant-appellants Kaiser Eagle Mountain, LLC and Mine Reclamation, LLC. Tamara N. Rountree, United States Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division, Washington, DC, for federal government defendant-appellants. Debo...
Judge Panel:Before: HARRY PREGERSON, STEPHEN S. TROTT and RICHARD A. PAEZ, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge PREGERSON; Dissent by Judge TROTT TROTT, Senior Circuit Judge, dissenting:
Case Date:November 10, 2009
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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586 F.3d 735 (9th Cir. 2009)

NATIONAL PARKS & CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT; United States Department of Interior, Defendants,

and

Kaiser Eagle Mountain, Inc.; Mine Reclamation Corporation, Defendants-Appellants.

Donna Charpied; Laurence Charpied; Desert Protection Society; Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

United States Department of Interior, Defendant,

Bureau of Land Management; National Park Service; Bruce Babbitt, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Interior; Tom Fry, in his official capacity as Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management; Al Wright, in his official capacity as Acting California State Director of the Bureau of Land Management; Tim Salt, in his official capacity as Bureau of Land Management California Desert District Manager; Robert Stanton, in his official capacity as Director of the National Park Service, Defendants,

and

Kaiser Eagle Mountain, Inc.; Mine Reclamation Corporation, Defendants-Appellants.

National Parks & Conservation Association, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

United States Department of Interior, Defendant-Appellant,

Bureau of Land Management, Defendant-Appellant,

and

Kaiser Eagle Mountain, Inc.; Mine Reclamation Corporation, Defendants.

Donna Charpied; Laurence Charpied; Desert Protection Society; Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

United States Department of Interior; Kaiser Eagle Mountain Inc.; Mine Reclamation Corporation; Bureau of Land Management; National Park Service; Bruce Babbitt, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Interior; Tom Fry, in his official capacity as Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management; Al Wright, in his official capacity as Acting California State Director of the Bureau of Land Management; Tim Salt, in his official capacity as Bureau of Land Management California Desert District Manager; Robert Stanton, in his official capacity as Director of the National Park Service, Defendants-Appellees.

Nos. 05-56814, 05-56815, 05-56843, 05-56832, 05-56908.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

November 10, 2009

Argued and Submitted Dec. 6, 2007.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Leonard J. Feldman, Heller Ehrman LLP, Seattle, WA, for defendant-appellants Kaiser Eagle Mountain, LLC and Mine Reclamation, LLC.

Tamara N. Rountree, United States Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division, Washington, DC, for federal government defendant-appellants.

Deborah Sivas and Noah Long, Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, Stanford, CA, for plaintiff-appellee National Parks Conservation Association.

Stephan C. Volker, Law Offices of Stephan C. Volker, Oakland, CA, for plaintiffs-appellees Donna and Laurence Charpied.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Robert J. Timlin, District Judge, Presiding.

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D.C. Nos. CV-00-00041-RT, CV-99-00454-RT.

Before: HARRY PREGERSON, STEPHEN S. TROTT and RICHARD A. PAEZ, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge PREGERSON; Dissent by Judge TROTT

OPINION

PREGERSON, Circuit Judge:

Kaiser Eagle Mountain, Inc. (" Kaiser" ) seeks to build a landfill on a former Kaiser mining site near Joshua Tree National Park (" Joshua Tree" ). As part of its landfill development plan, Kaiser sought to exchange certain private lands for several parcels of land surrounding the mine site and owned by the Bureau of Land Management (" BLM" ). Several parties, including the National Parks Conservation Association (" Conservation Association" ) and Donna and Laurence Charpied (" the Charpieds" ), challenged the land exchange. Nevertheless, the BLM approved the land exchange, as did the Interior Board of Land Appeals (" Appeals Board" ).

The Conservation Association and the Charpieds pursued challenges in district court on several grounds, including violations of the Federal Land and Policy Management Act (" Management Act" ) and National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA" ). The district court held for the Conservation Association and Charpieds on the Management Act claims and some, but not all, of the NEPA claims. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and affirm in part and reverse in part.

I. Background

Kaiser owned and operated an iron ore mine near the Eagle Mountain range in Riverside County, California from 1948 to 1983. The mine area covered over 5,000 acres and included four large open pits. The mine area also included a 429-acre " Townsite," which housed mine workers and support personnel, and over which the United States owns a reversionary interest. Though Kaiser currently leases the Townsite for use as a correctional facility, the majority of the mine site lies dormant. The disturbed lands, which contain large quantities of mine tailings, have not been reclaimed.

The BLM owns several parcels of land surrounding the former mine site. In 1989, Kaiser sought to acquire these parcels through a land exchange. Under Kaiser's proposal, Kaiser will acquire 3,481 acres of public land, the United States's reversionary interest in the Townsite, and permanent rights-of-way over the dormant Eagle Mountain Railroad and Eagle Mountain Road. In exchange, Kaiser offered 2,846 acres of private land near other BLM lands and within an area designated as critical habitat for the desert tortoise.

Kaiser's ultimate goal is to develop the largest landfill in the United States. The proposed landfill project will cover 4,654 acres, including support and " buffer" areas. The landfill will accept solid wastes from several Southern California communities. The majority of the waste will be transported by train, though there will also be some truck and " self-haul" loads. The project is designed to operate for 117 years. At its peak, the proposed landfill will accept 20,000 tons of garbage per day, six days a week, for up to sixteen hours per day. During the final phase of the project, to commence in roughly seventy-eight years, garbage will be deposited into the largest of the four open mining pits, the East Pit. The remaining pits will not be filled. The total capacity of the proposed landfill is approximately 708 million tons.

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Both Joshua Tree and the Kaiser mine site lie within a large desert wilderness area that is home to several sensitive plant and animal species, including the desert tortoise and Bighorn sheep. The proposed landfill site sits within one and-a-half miles of Joshua Tree. The landfill would be visible from remote areas of Joshua Tree.

As part of its analysis of the proposed land exchange, the BLM produced a Draft Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS"). The EIS described the purpose and need of the project as follows:

The primary purpose of the Project is to develop a new Class III nonhazardous municipal solid waste landfill to meet the projected long-term demand for environmentally sound landfill capacity in Southern California; provide a long-term income source from the development of a nonhazardous municipal solid waste landfill; find an economically viable use for the existing mining by-products at the Kaiser Eagle Mountain Mine site, including use of existing aggregate and overburden; and provide long-term land use and development goals and guidance for the Townsite.

With these purposes in mind, the BLM considered six alternatives in detail: (1) No action; (2) Reduced volume of waste; (3) Alternate road access; (4) Rail access only; (5) Landfill on Kaiser land only; and (6) Landfill development without Townsite development.

The BLM also commissioned an appraisal report on the proposed exchange lands from David J. Yerke, Inc. (" the Yerke appraisal" ). The Yerke appraisal found that the " highest and best use" of the public lands in question was " holding for speculative investment." The appraisal explicitly stated that it did " not take into consideration any aspects of the proposed landfill project." The Yerke appraisal therefore valued the public parcels surrounding the mine site at roughly $77 per acre and the Townsite at roughly $106 per acre.1 The appraisal valued the Kaiser lands to be exchanged at approximately $104 per acre. The BLM subsequently required Kaiser to pay $20,100, the difference between the value of the exchanged public lands and Kaiser's parcels.

In 1997, the BLM adopted a Final EIS, incorporating the Draft EIS, and issued a Record of Decision approving the land exchange as proposed by Kaiser. The Conservation Association and Charpieds filed administrative protests with the BLM. When those protests were denied, the Conservation Association and Charpieds separately appealed to the Appeals Board. The Appeals Board affirmed the BLM's decision in a separate decision, incorporating the Draft and Final EIS, in September 1999.

The Conservation Association and the Charpieds (hereinafter, collectively " Conservation Association" ) filed separate complaints in the district court seeking review under the Administrative Procedure Act and alleging violations of the Management Act and NEPA. The district court consolidated the complaints. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court ruled in the Conservation Association's favor, in part. Looking only to the Record of Decision, the district court set aside the land exchange because: (1) the BLM did not give " full consideration" to whether the land exchange is in the public interest; (2) the Yerke appraisal failed to consider a landfill as a " highest and best use" ; (3) the EIS's " purpose and need" statement was too narrowly drawn, with accordingly narrow potential alternatives foreordaining

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landfill development; and (4) the BLM failed to take a " hard look" at potential impacts on Bighorn sheep and the effects of nitrogen enrichment on the nutrient-poor desert...

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